Friday, 11 February 2011

Who's had too many raspberries, then?

Thanks for the title inspiration, Liam! ;-)

Yes, it's time for another dose of little leggy things, I'm afraid - there's just no getting away from them around here. This enchanting little critter is a springtail, or collembolan. They've got six legs and a pair of antennae, and that ought to be enough to make them insects... but it isn't quite. These things don't have wings, and they've never had them (unlike ants, for example). They also have a soft, velvety cuticle rather than hard plates, and they get their name from a springy fork underneath them - release the catch, and wheeeee...!

Sadly, this group of springtails doesn't do that, which at least makes them much easier to photograph. There was a thin silver one boinging around everywhere, but I gave up on that. In general, springtails are a rather poorly-studied group, perhaps largely because among the biggest one of all is a whopping 17 mm long, and most of them are less than 1 mm (this one was around 2 mm, but at least it stood out!). Regardless, new species are still turning up all the time in China, and there are probably not that many people looking. There's little chance of me recognising anything interesting, I hasten to add... but it is at least a chance to introduce you all to something different!

Just as an aside, these have got about the simplest compound eyes that it's possible to have... each has two lenses, that you can just make out as little black dots, roughly where you'd expect the eyes to be. If not, just imagine it's got eyes wherever you want to stick them. So, is anyone getting to be convinced that our little friends can be cute, yet?

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